Friday, August 3, 2012

Waging a Winning War vs. Water Worries and Waste

(Wells, and Web’s Worthy, Well-proven Worldwide Ways)

A search on the Web would show the following data:

  1. One billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6-billion lack access to basic sanitation;
  2. Half of the world’s hospitalizations are due to people drinking water contaminated with infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards;
  3. Bacteria causing diarrhea accounts for 4.1% of the global disease burden, killing 1.8 million children a year;
  4. More folks have access to a cell phone than a toilet;
  5. In fact, the ancient Romans had better water quality than half the people alive today;
  6. Nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease.
  7. Every eight seconds, a child dies of a waterborne disease, in every case preventable if their parents had money to pay for water.
  8. A new World Bank reports says that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed supply by more than 40%.
  9. Water scarcity: the world's freshwater resources are fixed, but both population and per capita consumption of water is growing.
  10. By 2025 one in three people around the world will experience either water scarcity or water stress.
  11. Water makes up more than two thirds of human body weight, and without water, we would die in a few days.
  12. The human brain is made up of 95% water, blood is 82% and lungs 90%.
  13. A mere 2% drop in our body's water supply can trigger signs of dehydration: fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on smaller print, such as on a computer screen.
  14. Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, breast cancer by 79%, and the development of bladder cancer by 50%.

Water worries are real. In recognition, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring Access to Clean and Safe Water as a human right. It actually reinforced what is deemed included in Article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Because of these worries, the UN called on States and international organizations “to provide financial resources, build capacity and transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, in scaling up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.”

Technology transfer backed by financial resources and assistance to build capacity is indeed a hopeful sign to allay the fears and concerns.

Further search would also show that there are new technologies available to governments, international organizations, public utilities, and social enterprises.

An example is a water system called SLINGSHOT, which was invented by Dean Kamen. If produced in volume, the cost of production per unit is $2500 and another $2500 to power the device. If the system really works for five years, it is estimated that the cost of producing 1,000 liters of drinking water per day is $0.002 per liter. Even if the cost is tripled to cover interest and labor, the price of five liters is only four cents – compared to today’s thirty cents for the same supply.

Is there a market knowing that more than four billion earn less than $2 a day? Research shows that the twenty-five poorest countries spend twenty percent of their GDP on water. That percentage represents about thirty cents a day, which is $1.2 billion a day or about $400 billion a year. As Peter H. Diamandis, author of “Abundance” said, “there is a need”.

Peter Williams, Green Innovations Chief Technology Officer and IBM “Distinguished Scientist”, is of the view that Information Technology plays a very significant role in reducing the total cost of water use. He suggests creating an intelligent network of all waterworks – meaning a “Smart Grid for Water.” The plan is to embed all sorts of sensors, smart meters, and Artificial Intelligence-driven automation into the pipes, sewers, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, harbors, and, eventually our oceans. The estimated savings is 30-50% of water use.

There are at least 50 other emerging new water technologies that merit analysis and review. I will discuss them in future columns.

More than half a century ago, Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay was also known for his honesty and humility. He respected and honored the “common tao” and brought honor to our country. He was a President who recognized the value of WATER in our daily lives. In earnestness, he initiated a campaign to make sure that drinking water be made available through the construction of Artesian Wells in the barrios as well as irrigation for the farmers.

PNoy might want to consider a similar campaign in this digital age!

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